The blockchain underlying Bitcoin is moving beyond money and into record keeping and law. This essay explores recent efforts to harness the ledger-like qualities of blockchains to create contracts. Along the way, it considers the forms and functions of other historical examples of ledgers, the dynamics of visibility and publicity, and shifts in the incentive structure of blockchain systems. Distributed, autonomously-executing contracts sound like science fiction. Their non-contractual basis in social relations, cultural assumptions, and human-computer labor, together with their particular system of incentives, may make of contract a kind of game with real-world consequences.
In the second of his two-part series, Paul Sagar suggests that to understand what Neo-liberalism is not, we would do well to look at the intellectual history of recent economic theory. Drawing on work by James Forder, he suggests that we presently labour under a collective misapprehension about the terms of modern political economy.
The term Neo-liberalism is a staple of contemporary political discourse. But what does it actually mean? In this two-part article Paul Sagar draws on recent work in political economy to suggest that we are astonishingly unclear about what this key term signifies. Engaging with recent work by Helen Thompson and Martin Wolf, he argues that it is in fact hard to pin down where neoliberalism or its alternatives stand between the market and politics.
An encounter: Steven J. Fowler is a British poet and artist working in the modernist and avant garde traditions. KR chats to him about the place and politics of his poetry.
Bitcoin represents a fascinating technological innovation which might have a number of potential applications. In contrast to the aspirations of some of its supporters, rivaling existing money is not among its likely uses. This results from an underappreciation in Bitcoin’s design of what are important features of money, argues Beat Weber, economist at the Austrian Central Bank.
A selection of poems on the struggle for autonomy in dietary choices and in old age, from writer and professor of philosophy Felicia Nimue Ackerman.
Today’s most known representatives of the sharing economy discussed in global media are online platforms built on top of venture capital backed, hierarchically structured organizations. Francesca Pick and Julia Dreher argue that there is a fundamental misunderstanding today in the discussion of the subject: the sharing economy is built on rhizomatic network structures holding the potential for deeper societal transformation.
Anita Datta thinks about the significance of leading and following in Ballroom and Latin dancing. How would a newly open way of dancing really look like? Drawing on her experiences at ‘Pink Jukebox’, an LGBT dance club in London, she explores the queer and feminist way of thinking about dancing as a start.
In an unflinching account, Raffaella Taylor-Seymour traces her mother’s life and death and the insight it has generated. She unpicks the expectations surrounding bereavement, both from ourselves and others, in the hope of breaking the silence that shrouds death.
The KR editors spoke to one of the most important historians of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Ilan Pappe, about recent and historic violence in Gaza and Palestine, the two-state solution, Israel’s endgame, Hamas’ perspective and goals as well as the most recent elections. Pappe is pessimistic: “Either Palestinians accept life in Bantustans or they will feel the strength of the military brutality if they resist.”
During the recent surge in university occupations, ‘neoliberalism’ has been the enemy du jour. But does it still even exist? Did it ever exist? Jack Browne believes we shouldn’t care. The occupations are affirming political ideals that are outside of the norms of the twenty-first century university. We too need to abandon the inertia of terminological infighting and articulate the unexpected.
Occupy LSE recently protested the neoliberal university. But, what does ‘neoliberalism’ actually mean? Eric Lybeck suggests the term denotes an historical epoch which is nearly over. Bankers are more often trained in business schools than advanced economic science, which is itself undergoing curricular change as we speak. Further criticism of neoliberalism is therefore unnecessary. Instead, we should focus on the intellectual incoherence of evolutionary psychology and behavioural economics which is the wave of the future.
For the first time ever, architectural photography takes centre stage at a London exhibition in Barbican’s Constructing Worlds. Max Vickers takes this as an opportunity to explore the continually intertwining histories of photography and architecture, from the invention of the medium through to its Instagramisation.
Bitcoin proponents argue that it is a force for empowerment, privacy, financial inclusion and cheap financial transfers. These claims are subject to various lines of critique: there is unequal access to the technology, that it can be abused by those who use it, and that it will fail to deliver collective benefits. In this piece, Brett Scott claims that despite this, Bitcoin remains one of the few systems that could act as a partial future counterpower to our existing electronic bank payments system.
What is ‘wellbeing’ and how can we reach it? What are strategies and ways that people employ to increase their happiness? Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Public Health Excellence Centre at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in Cambridge gives us some answers on the International Day of Happiness.